Robert A. Toombs was born in Wilkes County, GA, the son of Major Robert Toombs (1775-1816), and his third wife, Catharine Huling (d.1848), both native Virginians.
As a boy, Robert A. Toombs attended an “old field school” run by one Welcome Fanning. He then attended the University of Georgia (Athens). However, Toombs earned no degree from the University of Georgia, and had in fact been in disciplinary trouble there; he later refused an honorary degree from the same institution. He was an 1828 graduate of Union College (Schenectady, NY). Union College granted him an A.B. after he successfully completed “the classical course.” Toombs attended the University of Virginia in session 5 (1829-1830), where he studied law.
In 1830, Robert A. Toombs began his law practice in Washington, Wilkes County, GA. In the same year (18 Nov. 1830) he married Martha Julianna “Julia” DuBose (1813-1883). The couple had three children, of whom two survived to adulthood: Lawrence Catlett Toombs (d. young), Louisa Toombs, and Sallie Toombs.
From 1837 to 1841, Toombs was a member of the Georgia State House of Representatives, from 1845 to 1853, he served as a U.S. Congressman representing Georgia, and from 1853 to 1861, he was a United States Senator. He was affiliated with both the Whig and Democratic parties. During the Civil War he was Secretary of State of the Confederate States of America, and was also commissioned at the rank of brigadier general in the CSA on 21 Jul. 1861. During the Civil War, he was elected to the Confederate Senate but declined to serve, presumably due to ongoing military responsibilities.
Toombs was assigned to command a brigade consisting of Georgia troops: the First regulars, the Second, Fifteenth and Seventeenth infantry regiments, with Blodgett’s battery. His brigade participated in several major battles, including Second Manassas (2nd Bull Run) and Sharpsburg (Antietam). He resigned his commission effective 4 Mar. 1863. “In 1864, he was adjutant and inspector-general of the Georgia division of State troops, under Gen. G. W. Smith, and in this capacity he participated in the defense of the Chattahoochee line, and of the cities of Atlanta and Macon.” (Confederate military history, v.7, p.446)
After the war, Toombs was second only to Confederate President Jefferson Davis as a man the Union forces wanted to capture. He escaped the United States, and lived briefly in Cuba, France, and Great Britain, before returning to Wilkes County in 1867, where he lived for the rest of his life. In the early 1880s, Toombs served on the Board of Governors at University of Georgia.
Robert A. Toombs died in Washington, GA, in 1885. He and his wife are buried at Resthaven Cemetery, GA.
- Confederate military history, Atlanta, GA, 1899, in Historical Data Systems, comp.. American Civil War General Officers [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1999.
- National Park Service. U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.
- Phillips, Ulrich B., Ed. Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1911 in Two Volumes: The Correspondence of Robert Toombs, Alexander H. Stephens, and Howell Cobb. Washington, DC, 1913. Accessed via books.google.com.
- Stovall, Pleasant A. Robert Toombs: Statesman, Speaker, Soldier, Sage. Rahway, N.J., 1892. Accessed via Project Gutenberg.
- Tombstones of Robert A. and Julia Toombs in Resthaven Cemetery, Washington, Wilkes Co., GA. Viewed via FindAGrave.com. (Accessed 5/13/2011).
- “Toombs, Robert Augustus (1810-1885)”, Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-present. http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=T000313 (accessed 5/13/2011).